“When I point to you, say your name and the position that you want to play on the Harvard baseball team,” the head coach said gruffly. He pointed to Bryan. “Bryan Petersen, Shortstop. And, by the way, David Ortiz’s slugging percentage in 2006 was .636.” Everyone on the team, including the coach, looked at him funny. Then, the coach shrugged and moved on to the next name. After coach had moved through all of the names, he said that they would start off practice by figuring out what position everyone was going to play. He started off by hitting all of the infielders grounders. He started with Bryan. As Bryan ran out to shortstop, he heard his new teammates snickering, as Bryan probably looked like he should have been playing first base or even linebacker. Even the coach had to suppress a smirk. But Bryan was a whole lot better at the game of baseball than everyone expected, as he gobbled up scorching grounders and made effortless, on-target throws to first, and walloped many line drives and even a few home runs in batting practice.
When the new team’s first practice was finally over, the coach pulled Bryan aside, not to congratulate him on his performance during the practice, but to inquire about the David Ortiz comment that he had made at the beginning of practice. “Two things: one, how on Earth do you know what David Ortiz’s slugging percentage was in 2006, and two, why did you have to interrupt our practice to say something that nobody in the world cares about?” “I… I just… um… said Bryan. “Made that up,” said the coach. “Well, no…, I just…” said Bryan. “Just what?” asked the coach. “I just…, never mind.” “Never mind is right,” said the coach. “And why did you have to say that nonsense during the middle of our practice!?,” roared the coach. “Um, well… I don’t know, sir,” said Bryan. “Mm,” said the coach. “You’d better run along so you’re not late to dinner.” Bryan trudged off the field slowly without saying a word.These types of incidents happened a few times over the next few weeks, with Bryan performing extremely well in both practices and games, but again, the coach didn’t compliment him, and his teammates began to think of him as a know-it-all, a geek, and a show-off. Finally, the coach reached a boiling point. He sat Bryan down and demanded to know the real reason that Bryan was making these comments that no one seemed to understand or care about. The coach viewed these comments as smart-alecky and just trying to show off and get attention, and when Bryan tried to explain to him that he was just really, really smart and had an awesome memory, the narrow-minded coach didn’t believe him.
“Hey, Bryan, we can’t have geeks like you on this team. Perhaps you should pursue a career in the biodiversity field?” When Bryan argued that the team would perform very poorly without him, the coach just turned a deaf ear. “Get off this team!,” yelled the coach.
Bryan was home alone, and had nothing to do because his parents had gone out to dinner with some friends from work. He had been half-sulking and half-reading Baseball Digest, his favorite baseball magazine, which included a lot of statistical information that Bryan was deeply interested in. And then he got the call. When he first heard the phone ring, he thought it would just be a normal call, such as from his parents, but when he picked up the phone, he didn’t recognize the number on the screen. He picked up the phone, uncertain. “Hello?” Bryan asked. “Are you Bryan Petersen?” a male voice on the other end answered. “Um, yesss…” Bryan said, now even more worried. “Perfect. Now have you been following the MLB draft at all?,” the male voice said. “Um, yeah. Very closely,” said Bryan, now more confused than worried. Why would this man want to talk to him about baseball, and the draft in particular? Did that mean- he tried not think about that, and just tried to wait and see where this conversation was going. “Let me be straight-up about this. You’ve been drafted into the Red Sox’ minor league single-a affiliate.” “You’re kidding. Is this a joke?” Bryan said, giddy with disbelief and subdued delight. “Nope, it’s real. I’m Bob McKenzie, by the way, and I’m the head minor league scout for the Boston Red Sox. I attended all of your practices and games, and you’re something special out there on the baseball field. It seems like you’re really good at preparing for games by looking at stats and splits, and you memorize cool baseball statistics for fun, and I value both of those things.” Bryan thought: this is a dream come true, not only to be drafted in hopes of making it to the major leagues, but to also have someone that really cares about my interest in statistics and looks past my appearance to actually pay attention to the fact that I’m a really good player. But all Bryan said was, “Awesome. Thanks, Bob,” Bryan said. “Wait, one more thing,” said Bob. “Should I notify your coach at Harvard to let him know?” “Yeah, sure, why not,” said Bryan casually. “Ok, I’ll call him right away, have fun, Bryan, and good luck. Bye.” It was a decision that Bryan would soon come to regret.
Bryan suddenly remembered all of the times where he had said statistical information “that nobody cared about,” and how the coach had been mean and unfair to him in telling him how he was different from everyone else because he liked statistics so much, and how the coach didn’t like people who didn’t have stereotypical baseball-player type attributes. He also remembered how the coach had picked on him right from the start because he looked unathletic. Then, he realized that because the coach disliked him so much already, it was probably the wrong decision to have the scout notify him of the fact that Bryan was drafted, as they might try and hinder him from moving up through the minor leagues and possibly making it to the majors. So, instead of being happy and excited that he had been drafted, he tossed and turned at night, thinking about how the coach would react when he heard the news.
The next morning, a Saturday, Bryan woke up at 6:00am, which was unusual for him because he usually slept until 9 on weekends. Of course, he was worrying about the baseball situation with the coach. Just as he was turning the faucet to take a shower, the doorbell rang. Bryan threw his arms up in disgust. His parents were in Delaware visiting his sick grandmother, so there was no one home to get the door. Shaking his head, he threw his clothes back on, worried that the person waiting at the door would be mad that Bryan had taken so long. Running, he opened the door, and heart dropped. Standing there was the coach, livid with rage. Bryan cowered, and his heart pounded. The look on the coach’s face was beyond hatred, it was otherworldly. “Uhhhh, Hello…,” Bryan said. “Pretty nice d-d-day out, uhhhh… isn’t it…?” even though it was 42 degrees outside and pouring rain. “You think you’re pretty funny, dontcha, kid?,” the coach replied loudly. The coach snorted beneath his bushy mustache and rolled his small, watery eyes. “N-n-no, Sir,” said Bryan, quaking with fear. “Ah, you’re just wasting time and diverting us from the main reason why I’m here,” “which I’m sure that you know,” the coach puffed, with an evil grin on his face.
Bryan was too scared to say anything. “Some guy who said his name was Bob McKenzie gave me a ring on my cell last night. Do you just… so… happen to recognize that name?,” said the coach, his eyes gleaming. The restrained anger and mock, forced calmness in his voice was what scared Bryan the most. Bryan lowered his head and nodded, slowly and humbly. His ears turned bright red. “Now, I already know the answer to this question,” the coach said quietly, “but I just want to hear you say it: Why, exactly, were you talking to this man last night?” “I… I… I… umm…,” Bryan stuttered. “FINE, IF YOU’RE NOT GONNA SAY, THEN I WILL!!!,” roared the coach. Bryan was sure that everyone could hear him from here to New York. “HE CALLED YOU TO TELL YOU THAT YOU’VE BEEN DRAFTED BY THE RED SOX, but you’re NOT going anywhere. I will make every attempt for you not to be a major leaguer in a few years, EVEN IF IT MEANS MY HOUSE, MY FAMILY, OR MY DANGED HIDE! And don’t worry, Petersen, I’m not trying to be subtle.” Then, the coach turned and exited the Victorian-style house, slamming the oak door behind him. Bryan, mortified, took a quick, cold shower. Bryan’s parents came home later that morning, and Bryan lied easily about what a pleasant, cheerful morning he’d had. A few hours later, Bryan was taking a nap, and he woke up feeling feverish. His parents took his temperature, but they said he was normal. “No, he’s not normal, he’s bizarre,” his sixteen-year-old sister, Norma, said with a snort and a roll of her eyes. “Thank you, Norma. You may leave now,” said Bryan’s mom. Bryan’s mind was racing, and his heart was racing. Now was the perfect time to tell his parents about his situation with coach, and he hadn’t even told his folks that he’d been drafted! Bryan decided that it was now or never. “Uh, mom…,” stammered Bryan. “Yes, Bryan?,” she asked casually. “I have something I really need to tell you,” Bryan said slowly, cautiously. “Oh, I bet it’s about baseball again, isn’t it? It’s all you’ve been interested in lately, all you’ve cared about,” said his mother, her voice rising perilously. “I’m really sorry, it’s related to baseball. But it’s good and bad news,” said Bryan, becoming scared. His mom looked so mad, he thought he just might have seen some smoke coming out of her ears. But his mom suddenly sounded forcibly calm when she said, “Okay, tell me.” “Do you want to hear the good news or the bad news first?,” asked Bryan. “I don’t freaking care, just get it over with!!,” his mom yelled, sounding agitated. Bryan shuddered. “Well, I guess I can say the good news first, then,” said Bryan, trying to keep his voice under control. “Go on,” his mom said, with a menacing tone in her voice. “Uh, well, um, I’ve been drafted by the Red Sox.” “Or… Um… maybe that’s not such uh… good news to you… I mean… um… I don’t know,” Bryan said hastily, his head down. When Bryan looked up slowly, he saw the muscles in her face tense, and stay tense. Bryan, though taller than she, began to cower and shiver under her wrath. Bryan’s mom took a deep breath. Suddenly, she asked him, “Is it your dream?” Bryan bit his lip and nodded slowly. His mother gritted her teeth and said, “Then follow it.” “Okay, if you’re committed to helping me achieve my goal, I need you to help me figure out how to get out of a pickle that I’m in,” said Bryan, relieved. “Okay, how may I help you?,” asked his mom in a mockingly businesslike tone. Then, it all came pouring out of him, about the first day at practice, how it had continued throughout all of the practices, and about the coach’s visit. His mother was shocked, and angry. But not at Bryan. She was angry at the coach. “I don’t know much about baseball, but I do know that the coach shouldn’t be kicking you off the team for being smart,” she said, with fire in her eyes. Brian said, “I have a feeling that the coach is going to try and stop me from getting to the major leagues, so I need your help to help me push back against his plot.” “Consider me enlisted. What is his plot?,” his mother asked. “I don’t know yet. But it is our job to find out. That’s why I’ve recruited you,” Bryan replied. He was amazed at how far his mother’s mood could change in just a couple of minutes. “I am ready,” said his mother confidently, with the tone of a warrior. Suddenly, as she was getting up from the bed, Bryan asked, “Should we tell Dad?” “No, I think that this is something we should keep between ourselves,” his mom said. Bryan nodded. And with that, their meeting ended.
Meanwhile, the coach was sitting in his cramped, stuffy apartment, smoking a cigar, and thinking, “There has to be way to stop him…” over and over and over. A new thought crept into his head: “What if someone’s helping him? Him and his accomplice could easily overpower me, I’m nothin’ but a fifty-one year old white guy that’s fat and has junk food as ninety-five percent of his diet.” Just like a kid, the coach began to have nightmares about two muscular guys in black ski masks breaking into his house and jumping him while he watched TV.
Back at the Petersens’ house, Bryan continued life as normal. He and his mom did not speak of the coach’s plot in the next few days.
The coach, in his apartment, contemplated still more. Finally, after ten days of far-fetched fantasies and hundreds of retirement dollars spent on cigars, a loud “AHA!,” rang through the apartment building. The coach had found an idea. He’d run every aspect of the plot through his head to make sure it wouldn’t raise suspicion. The one thing he did not have was a backup plan. He was too lazy for that. It was the first plot or never…
Meanwhile, Bryan stealthily maneuvered himself into a crouch on the other side of the apartment. The coach’s place was the second floor, and the window was open. It was eight-o-clock at night, and the chilly breeze made Bryan more nervous than he already was. Bryan’s mom was staying back at their house, in case anything went wrong. She trusted her son.
Bryan had heard the AHA! from the coach’s room, and grew tense. But it also fueled Bryan, gave him the confidence to keep going, now that he knew the coach had something in mind. Once he crept up to the room, he would knock politely, twice if necessary, and the coach would answer, enraged at his presence. Bryan would reason with him, and then calmly ask him questions about his plot, trying to cross-examine him and twist him up in his own lies. If that didn’t work, Bryan figured he could easily overpower a fifty-one year old out-of-shape guy. He could call his mom for extra help.
With all of that in mind, Bryan got down on hands and knees, crawled to the front door, and entered the code, 0636. His mom had told him the code and the coach’s room number, 219, before Bryan had left the house. As he entered in the code, the buttons made a loud “ding” sound. Bryan winced. Luckily, no one heard. Bryan tiptoed up the creaky stairs and opened another door. Then, he saw it, the third door on the left. 219.
Bryan knocked on the door softly; there was no answer. Bryan knocked again, a bit harder this time. Then, he heard a loud grunt, and the sound of the coach struggling to stand up off of a beanbag chair. As the coach waddled toward the door, Bryan held his breath. The knob turned, and there stood the coach, in a fluffy red bathrobe and Converses. For a couple of seconds, Bryan and the coach stared at each other. The seconds felt like an eternity. Finally, the coach yelled, “WHAT’RE YOU DOIN’ HERE!?” The coach was so mad, his mustache was turning purple. “Calm down, calm down,” Bryan said. I just came to ask you a few… questions,” Bryan leered, a meticulous pause in his voice. “Nice bathrobe, by the way,” Bryan said sarcastically. He snickered to himself. This made the coach’s cheeks get even redder. “May I sit down?,” asked Bryan, supposing mock hospitality. The coach was too furious to answer, so Bryan helped himself to a seat on the coach’s big couch, which smelled faintly of cigars.
Bryan started right in. “So, it is obvious to me that you do not want me to advance through the Red Sox’s minor-league system to become a major leaguer, is that correct?” The coach bit his tongue and nodded. “And it has also come to my knowledge that you are willing to sacrifice everything in order for me not to achieve this goal, correct?” The coach nodded again. “I–” Bryan held up a hand. “And it has also come to my attention that you have developed a plot for preventing me to achieve my goal, judging by the “AHA!” that I heard outside the building, just a little while ago, correct?” The coach grew more and more desperate. “Hey, hey, it isn’t your right to know that,” the coach sputtered. “Shut your mouth, you infectious piece of scum!” The coach narrowed his piggy eyes at the insult but complied. Bryan had to admit, he enjoyed the power he possessed over the coach. “Now then, tell me the plot, and nothing will happen to you.” The coach was silent, his fists clenched. “Tell me the plot, and nothing will happen to you. This is your last chance,” Bryan said, in a menacing voice. Again, the coach remained silent. Now, the coach started to stand up, his fists still clenched, and a look of pure hatred on his face. “Now!,” Bryan thought, and he ran to his small backpack which he’d brought with him, and pulled out a vial of sedative and a needle. Seeing the sedative and the needle, the coach sank back into his chair. With the coach too scared to attempt any resistance, Bryan injected the sedative. The coach faded into unconsciousness. Then, Bryan tied the coach to the couch with some rope. Then, he called his mom. Their only exchange was “Hey, mom, I need some reinforcements,” and “On my way. 10-4.” His mom was an athletic woman, so Bryan felt confident in her. Minutes later, his mom arrived. The coach was coming to. “What the!?,” the coach yelled. Bryan said, “Tell us the plot.” “Now!,” added his mother. The coach took a deep breath, but still struggled against his bonds. His eyes were wild. Finally, he stuttered out, “K-K-Kidnapping.” Bryan was taken aback. He’d expected the coach to get dirty, but not to commit a crime! Then, this thought faded into simple relief. Bryan called 911 and told the police about the coach and his plan of kidnapping. In a flash, they arrived at the apartment building.
“What’s going on here?,” police Sergeant Blair Anderson asked Bryan. “Take this man away.” Bryan told the Sergeant an abbreviated version of the whole story, right up to when the coach admitted the kidnapping plot. What the sergeant was most appalled about was not the kidnapping plot, but the way Bryan was treated. Brian freed the coach from his bonds, and Sergeant Anderson handcuffed the coach. The coach did not protest. Soon after, the coach went to trial and was convicted for nearly-attempted kidnapping. He was sentenced to two years in prison and eighteen months of home confinement. The coach could not be punished for the way he treated Bryan, but his views of baseball players, and humans themselves, were changed forever.
Six months into his prison stay, the coach sent an email to Bryan. It said, “Bryan, I’m sorry for how I treated you. As for the kidnapping plot, my mind was out of control, I was so caught up in trying to prevent you from becoming a pro baseball player that I went to extreme measures. This experience taught me a lot about how to improve myself as a coach and as a human being. Good luck to you, whatever your future endeavors may be, in baseball or beyond. Signed, Mike Michelin.” As Bryan read the email, he nodded and smiled. He was ready to forgive.
Bryan Petersen would steadily move up through the Red Sox’s minor league system, impressing everywhere he went. He would start at shortstop for the Boston Red Sox on opening day in 2023, and quickly became a star. As his career with the Red Sox wore on, he became a mentor to some of the younger players, telling them to be themselves, and play the way they would naturally.
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